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MUSIC REVIEW : Janowski, Harrell at Hollywood Bowl

A little charisma goes a long way for a conductor, especially for a guest conductor who lacks substantial rehearsal time. Marek Janowski--judging from his matter-of-fact podium manner at Hollywood Bowl on Thursday and the results produced by the Los Angeles Philharmonic--could use a little charisma.

The Polish conductor, in his second Bowl appearance this week, provided mundane readings of some well-worn Schubert and Wagner.

This is not to say that he doesn’t have individual ideas on these works, only that he didn’t manage to convey them to the Philharmonic.

In Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger” Prelude, Janowski, veteran of a “Ring"-cycle recording, settled for a generalized heftiness of sound and a basic, steady tempo. Climaxes were arrived at by getting there, not by any special building process, as phrases unwound with small sense of warmth or curve.

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The conspicuous presence of aircraft certainly didn’t help Janowski’s account of Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony, which at any rate seemed competent. He stressed string sound above all else, paid attention to accentuation, and attained a degree of dynamic subtlety.

And though the Philharmonic strings responded with impressively unified weightiness, many of the big moments seemed way too much in their favor, the winds and brass meekly intoning noble themes in the background. In moments of repose, with the strings brought down, woodwind solos bloomed delicately.

Luckily, Lynn Harrell, who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of routine, was on hand for the second half with Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, a piece he has often performed here, and as recently as March.

He brought his usual assured technique and animated expression to every phrase in the work, indeed many times working note to note. He has a striking way of forming long stanzas from minute detail, backing off momentarily, slowing down and, just when the musical line is about to sag, hurling it forward with aggressive attack or enriched tone or his trademark wide vibrato. A persuasive, engrossing performance.

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Some of his enthusiasm seemed to rub off on Janowski and orchestra, who, despite some rough edges, offered a bright, even gutsy, accompaniment.

Official attendance: 9,614.


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